From Canada to the Carribean to Kenya, I was blessed with the chance to explore a variety of landscapes and exotic wildlife in 2016. The only downside to this kind of bounty is that it creates a challenge when trying to pick my favorite dozen shots from the year!
Its a great problem to have and below is my best effort to recap an incredible year. I’ve included some of my best selling images as well as others that I personally love even if they haven’t sold a single print. So, ready or not…here we go…
Racetrack Playa has long been on my bucket list and I finally got a chance to explore it last year. Unlike some other icons that don’t quite live up to the hype when you finally get to visit, Racetrack was all I hoped it would be and more (although I could have done without the sandstorm)! Check out this blog if you would like to read more and see photos from that trip.
This is one of those shots that I wouldn’t have gotten if I wasn’t so persistant (or ‘pig-headed’ as my wife might say). My son and I had a few hours to explore Nevada’s Valley of Fire State Park on our way to Zion and we hiked out to the ‘Fire Wave’ even though it was ugly and raining. I had just dropped my backpack when the sun burst thru the clouds and bathed us in glorious light for brief minute or two. Ryan ran up to the wave and I got my tripod set up in time to grab an image or two before the sun disappeared.
My wife Anita and I were diving near Pompano Beach when this Green Sea Turtle decided to tag along with us for a while. It was wonderful to spend a few moments with this graceful guy in such a tranquil setting. Here’s a link to a full article about this experience.
My wife (whom I clearly do not deserve) bought me a photo tour to Kenya as my Christmas present last year (I think I bought her a sweater); The trip was really all about wildlife, but deep down, I think I’m a landscape photographer at heart. Maybe that’s why I never missed the chance to capture some of the more incredible vistas…even if there was a leopard in the tree 50 feet away!
Yeah, I might love landscapes, but when your Land Rover turns the corner and two muscular Orix are scrapping for the rights to a harem of females, I had my camera up and ripping off shots with the rest of them. These two guys were cracking their spike-like horns together, grunting and wheezing with excitement…maybe I should have shot a video instead!
One challenge for any photographer is to capture something new and unique in their shots. This is nearly impossible when shooting iconic locations that have been photographed thousands of times before. Mt. Rundle, as seen from Two Jack Lake in Canada’s Baniff National park is one of those places. My son and I had spent two weeks getting systematically rained out of every single sunrise and sunset when the gods finally smiled and this scene appeared thru a breaking morning storm. It was one of those moments when everything came together and allowed Ryan and I beat the odds and capture a truly magical moment. I’m really proud of this image…it became my best selling print of 2016 and it is one of my all-time personal favorites. See my full blog from last year about how it all came together.
I’ve photographed Arizona’s Antelope Canyon many times now but I’m still amazed every time I crawl down into that narrow crack in the red sandstone. Technically, it is a difficult place to photograph but the resulting images can be amazing. Everyone should experience this insane place at least once in their lives.
2016 may be the year I finally came to understand ‘birders.’ To be honest, I’ve always looked at birders as nice but ‘unusual’ folks who delighted in talking thousands of photos of little grey and brown birds. Well, my two weeks in Kenya introduced me to a world of colorful and exotic birds that anyone would be crazy NOT to pick up a camera and start snapping shots! This shot of a Lilac Breasted Roller (I think) is possibly my all time best effort at capturing a bird in flight.
This is one of those photos that I would think is a photoshopped ‘creation’ unless I had been the one who actually taken the shot. A killer rock perch above a dramatic waterfall with a perfect little island right behind it just looks too cool to be real…but it is! Ryan and I arrived at Jasper’s Sunwapta Falls with an idealized idea of what we wanted to photograph but once we got there we just couldn’t find the right spot. We searched for quite a while before Ryan found it. This shot is the result of his persistance.
This is probably the most popular shot I took in Kenya (which is saying quite a lot since I took over 35,000 photos)! These four lion cubs were just walking right down the middle of a dirt road early one morning in Masai Mora National Park. That one to the left looks like he was shouting out cadence..”Hup, one, two three four, Hup…hup!” Actually, he was just yawning:) Check out their dirty little feet… clearly they had been up early playing in the mud…just like youngsters!
I was so excited when I first got to Lake Moraine that I immediately headed right to the famous ‘rockpile’ where you get this elevated view of the ‘Ten Peaks’. To get there, I left the trail and hopped across a series of slippery logs floating in the water next to the parking area then scrambled up a steep rocking incline to the top. Here was a 55+ year old guy carrying thousands of dollars of photo gear in a heavy backpack and I remember wondering if this was really a good idea. The funny thing was that when I got to the top, I saw that if I had stayed on the trail from the parking lot a bit longer I would have seen that there actually was a nice, paved walkway to the top that was being used every other tourist in Alberta….
I’ll finish with my favorite wildlife shot of 2016. I was watching a group of cheetahs trek across a small stream when one stopped at low spot in the surrounding bedrock that held a small puddle of water. I was shooting ten frames per second and luckily managed to capture this moment when the cheetah seemed to gaze at its’ own relection before lapping up an evening drink. The reflection was just perfect and the way the cheetah looped its tail and arched her back was nearly poetic in its gracefullness.
There you have it…the best I could do in 2016. Photography was good to me last year. It challenged and motivated me to seek out and enjoy the beauty of our earth. I hope you enjoyed my photos and perhaps they will inspire you to get out there and explore a bit as well!